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Jul 8, 2016

Environmentalists Discuss Pending Fisheries Act

Roberto Pott

A major concern brought up at the Reef Scorecard forum hosted by relevant stakeholders on Thursday was the issue of the Fisheries Act which has not yet been passed. And a major aspect of that Act will be strict guidelines and policies on fishing in Belizean waters. There is some impatience on the part of entities like Healthy Reefs who are concerned about the depletion of fish stocks while the critical legislation gathers dust on somebody’s desk. Country Coordinator Roberto Pott told News Five that it’s about much more than just prohibition of gillnets or the like, but about an overarching policy which covers that and more.

 

Roberto Pott, Country Coordinator, Healthy Reefs

“I believe that’s an outdated gear. I think there is other gear that would be far more productive in terms of the long term use of any stock. We’ve seen stock in Belize just overexploited and in some cases we’re looking at local extirpation, especially of our Nassau Grouper especially because of the fishing tradition we’ve had. My understanding is that you have less than 200 fishers who are using gillnets. If there is supposed to be a policy it is going to be a national policy. If you’re going to address gillnets in some instances, you can see those fishers who are currently using a particular method which is unsustainable being a barrier to a national policy. That’s my personal opinion. Looking at some of the data that we see coming out of our assessments nationally, fin fish stocks are declining nationally across the board, and so it calls on us to look at how we are managing our fin fish species, and I separate that from conch and lobster because it’s different methods, different gear that’s being used. If you see those trends then you have to take corrective measures. I don’t think the policy is in place and that’s why the Fisheries Bill in particular is crucial because it looks at managing individual stocks. We’ve been fishing down the trophic level, because when we can’t get snapper and grouper now, we were looking at parrotfish. Luckily WCS and others recognized that was a concern and the Fisheries Department saw the wisdom in protecting herbivores – parrotfish and sturgeon fish and others. But there are other species that we are starting to move into. If you talk to the people in San Pedro Angelfish is showing up as fillet on their plates. This cannot continue. We cannot continue to fish species without realizing the impact that we are having.”

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